Friends of Jesus (manuscript and video sermon)

Below you will find the manuscript and video for the sermon from May 10, 2015, preached at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church, Richmond, VA.   You can also find an audio of this sermon by visiting the church website and subscribing to our podcast.  The sermon is titled:  “Friends of Jesus” and is based on John 15:9-17.

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You can watch the video and/or read the manuscript below.

Friends of Jesus

John 15:9-17


“I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love.  If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in his love.  I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. 


“Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I’m commanding you to do.  The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.  You are my friends if you obey my commandments. 


“I don’t call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends because I’ve made known to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father.  You didn’t choose me, but I chose you. I have appointed you to go, to produce fruit that will last, and to ask the Father in my name to give you whatever you ask for. 


“Love each other. This is what I’m commanding you to do.”


Comedian Arsenio Hall has a bit in which he points out some of the oddities he noticed in human communication. He calls these, “Things that make you say ‘Hmmmm.’”


I experienced one of those moments this past week during lunch at Arby’s.  A young lady came into the restaurant and saw a fellow she knew sitting at the table next to mine.  She approached to say, “Hello!”  As she did, he stood to greet her and said, “Look at you.  You look like a breath of spring!”


As they greeted each other, I wondered if he could have got away with saying that she looks like the end of a hard winter.  Isn’t it the same thing?




What if he’d looked in her eyes and said, “Time stands still when I look in your face.”  Would that be the same as saying, “Your face would stop a clock.”  They do mean the same thing, don’t they?


Have you ever heard a speaker who “needs no introduction” get an extremely long introduction?



Have you ever heard a preaching say, “In closing…” and listen and listen and listen as he doesn’t close?




Many things in our world cause us to wonder – to make us say, “Hmmmm!”


One of the most remarkable (in theological terms) is found in today’s scripture lesson.  Today we hear that the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Chosen One of God, the Messiah, God incarnate, has chosen us to be his friends.


Here’s the good news for today in a single sentence nutshell:  “You are Jesus’ friend!”




Jesus does not call you his servant.  He does not refer to you as slaves.  You are not under a burden or a yoke or a chain.  The life we live in response to God’s grace is not one of obligation, compulsion, expectation, or debt.  That’s not the way of friendship…and Jesus calls you his “friends.”


It’s not a funny ha-ha moment from a comedic sketch.  It is not a punch line to a joke.  But it is a oddity among the pious jargon of religious life.  We’re not servants.  We are not slaves.   Jesus speaks of us as friends.


You are a friend of God.




It’s even more amazing than that.  In Jesus, God comes to seek us out before we even seek God.  In Jesus, God chooses us for friendship before we even thought about choosing God.  In fact, Paul says to the Ephesians, “God chose us before the foundations of the world.”




That is incredible to me.  I am of value, of worth, to Jesus.  You are valuable and have worth to God.


Think about what this means.


We have made faith a propositional matter in religious life.  We believe faith means adhering to a certain set of declarations, thoughts, dogmas, and doctrines.  What if faith was something more?  What if faith meant that we accepted and affirmed God’s gracious decision to CHOOSE US TO BE HIS FRIENDS?


A mentor once told me once that one of my biggest obstacles is that I do not have enough faith in “BILL.”


I know what he was saying.  I have struggled with feelings of “insecurity.”


I’ve had people tell me they love me and refuse to believe they really meant it.


I have been complimented for certain abilities and rejected those compliments because of my own sense of inadequacy.


I have spent a fair among of time turning away the love of others, not because of anything in them puts me off, but because of things inside me that I fear might put them off.


I have fear that offers of friendship are not applicable to the “real me”.  I have thought that if the other person really knew me they would not like me.


I know I am not alone.  There are some of you here today who have been chosen by God for friendship.  God likes, loves, accepts, includes, and adopts you.  God has went way out of his way in Jesus to come to you and choose you to be his pal. You are the apple of God’s eye.  Your picture is in God’s refrigerator door.  God has cleaned you up and declared you to be his friend.  Jesus says that it is so.  But you do not accept the joy that comes with being chosen.


You’re suspicious.  I get that.  I live there sometimes, too.  We’re guarded  because we suspect that we are not chosen out of love, but rather with some strings attached.  We fear that there is some quid-quo-pro involved that we will not be able to satisfy.  We fear this all involves some exchange of goods and services.  We suspect this is a ‘something for something’ encounter with the Divine and we just don’t have what it takes to stand up under that kind of pressure.


We’ve known users and abusers.  We’ve known some people who judge us by those things on the exterior – how we look, how we dress, the poor decisions we’ve made, the failures, foibles, and follies of our lives.  We know what it’s like to have people look down their noses at us.  Unfortunately, we meet these types of people most often in religious institutions.  What’s worse, sometimes “them people” who are always judging others are, in fact, us.


But Jesus is not like that.  The God revealed in Jesus is not like that.


Hear this message of grace today: You are chosen by God!  You have been selected for friendship inside the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


You are chosen not because of what you can do.  You have been selected and not for your abilities.  God has picked you, included you, simply because God loves you and wants to show you his love…and God wants to show others His love through you.


God knows who you are – and God has still chosen you for friendship.


God knows everything you have done or will do in your life – and God has still chosen you for friendship.


God has chosen you not to be his servant, or slave, but to be God’s friend.


“I do not call you slaves or servants,” Jesus says, “but I call you friends”


In the text the term used to refer to a servant or slave was the Greek word “Doulos.”  We should understand that this term was not one of shame or derision.  This word in Greek along with its Hebrew counterpart of a title of highest honor.


Moses was the doulos of God (Deuteronomy 34: 5);

Joshua was the doulos of God (Joshua 24: 29);

David was the doulos of God  (Psalm 89:20).


Throughout the scripture and even through the pages of history, the greatest men and women have been proud to be called the douli, the slaves/servants of God.


Yet Jesus says: “I have something greater for you than this, you are no longer to be called my slaves; rather I call you my friends.”


Christ offers an intimacy.  He has chosen us.  We are a friend to Jesus.  How tremendous is that!


We are not like onlookers in a crowd hoping to see the passing King.  We have a prime seat.  We have an intimate connection.  We are a friend.


We have a seat at the table.


We have a place in God’s presence.


We are able to speak WITH God in intimate ways.


We are able to see God’s heart and shares God’s joys.




Jesus shares himself with us as any good friend might do…


  • he trusts us with his treasures
  • he is faithful to us even when we are not
  • he does for us – even when we cannot do for him
  • he treats us as equals – as a brothers/sisters before Father
  • he forgives us when we ask – and even when we don’t
  • and he seeks for us the joy that is our birthright of grace

Indeed, as our Lord says to his disciples in today’s reading:


“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy be full.”


As you depart this place today…

…go knowing that God has chosen you

…go knowing that God find you worthwhile

…go knowing  that God values you

…go knowing that God thinks you are important

…go knowing that God has selected you for friendship


And rejoice!


Take the joy with you that Christ wants you to have!


And as you go, go resolved to make friends of others,

…no matter who they are

…no matter what they are about

…no matter what they have done or not done.


That’s what it means to be fruitful!  It means to choose others for love the way we have been chosen by grace.


Understand that with some folks it will not be easy.  Some people are not ready to enter into friendship, either with us or with God.  Yet regardless of their choice, we are called to be friendly and to offer friendship…


…to the outcast

…to the marginalized

…to the sinful

…to the broken

…to the sick

…to the lonely

…EVEN to the grumpy


God chose us to be his friends despite the fact that we (at least not at first) first – did not choose him.  So, let’s befriend others with the same spirit of love and grace. That’s our challenge and calling today in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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